Archive for the ‘Australia’ category

Cape Mentelle Chardonnay 2006

March 1, 2009

On a recent trip to Margaret River I’ve been confronted again with the boom of new wineries and cellar doors. Along with the fortunes made in mining, a lot of those places have been there for a while, especially at the northern end of the Wilyabrup area, but this time I suddenly became aware of the scale of developments. In the battle of egos big is the keyword, with oversized buildings, golden statues, water features and the ever compulsory cast iron gates.  To me it all seems unnecessary, especially in an otherwise unspoiled region like Margaret River where less is generally so much more beautiful. The comparison with the region’s Chardonnays is never far away, as the personality of these wines is often expressed through excessive oak, alcohol and lees stirring. Fortunately an increasing number of winemakers moves away from this style, allowing fruit, site and vintage speak for themselves. The Cape Mentelle Chardonnay is a perfect example with lower alcohol, well handled, restrained use of oak, and fresh, clean and crisp fruit. Sure, this cool vintage has helped to craft a leaner wine, although I also believe in a well chosen approach to style. It has all resulted in a clear, light straw coloured wine with aromas of lemon, grapefruit, white peach, melon and subtle notes of vanilla, nutty and spicy oak preceding detailed and precise flavors that are build on a well balanced base of barrel ferment characters and natural acidity. This wine clearly shows how Australian Chardonnays can still be appealing without showy muscles and weight. 92 points

Source: LVMH  Price: $43  Drink: Now-2012

Web: www.capementelle.com.au

Cullen “Kevin John” Chardonnay 2006

September 3, 2008

Spring is in the air and clear blue skies quickly make me forget about winter. Although, somehow I had to think about the summer of 2005-2006 with its extremely cool temperatures. I’ll never forget the drizzle at Fernhook Falls on New Years Eve. Later in 2006 it turned out the weather had been so cool that Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz grown in the most southern parts of WA had failed to ripen fully. But a difficult vintage for red wines turned out to be a great one for whites. Especially the Chardonnays show magnificent concentration of flavours and high natural acidity across the board, with the better ones from Margaret River being truly outstanding. Whether its the bio-dynamic approach, the pedigree of the fruit, restrained wine making or a combination of this all, the Chardonnays from Cullen always possess a certain naturalness making it one of the regions best. Light yellow in colour, intense aromas of citrusfruit and melon are underpinned by subtle oak and barrel derived characters. This is all repeated on a palate that is tight, elegant, focused and pure with ample acid and a superb creamy mouthfeel. Although I prefer to drink Chardonnays relatively young, I would cellar this wine for another year before looking at it again. 93 points.

Source: Red + White  Price: $79.99  Drink: Now-2011+

Web: www.cullenwines.com.au

Domaine Tournon Syrah 2004

July 14, 2008

Renowned Northern Rhône producer Chapoutier is one of the most important players on the Australian Shiraz scene with the Heathcote derived La Pleiade – jointly crafted with Jasper Hill’s Ron Laughton – receiving raving reviews and heading towards cult status rapidly. But in the meantime the wines from Chapoutier’s other vineyards in the Victorian Pyrenees and Mount Benson should not be overlooked, producing excellent wines stylistically sitting between French elegance and Australian sturdiness. The in 1998 founded Domaine Tournon in Mount Benson is situated on the famous Terra Rossa soils of the limestone coast. Around 50 hectares of vines are organically cultivated in what is one of Australia’s coldest wine growing regions with a mean January temperature of only 18°C. A viticultural approach avoiding over ripe fruit further guarantees wines that offer finesse through relatively low alcohol as shown by the 2004 Syrah. But if you think this intensily purple red wine exposes any hard, leafy or green characters you’re wrong. In contrary, ripe berryfruit strapped by spicy and toasty oak defines the nose following through to a medium to full-bodied palate exhibiting lush, rounded fruit, velvety tannins and hints of smoke, toast, earth and pepper. This is a discrete, elegant and balanced food wine that drinks perfectly now or can be cellared for at least another 5 years to gain futher complexity. I hope we see more of these wines in the future. 91 points

Source: Fine Wine Wholesalers  Price: $30  Drink: Now-2013 

Web: www.mchapoutieraustralia.com

Kalleske Pirathon Shiraz 2006

June 30, 2008

If there is one Australian region bearing the image of mass-producer and marketeer of cheap and cheerful wines it has to be the Barossa Valley. The incorrectness of this image is proven by a group of 12 small producers united as the ‘Artisans of Barossa’, emphasizing traditions and terroir of the Barossa in a climate of increasing corporate power and dominance. One of them is Troy Kalleske, a young and dynamic winemaker who has put his signature on many a bottle. His latest project is Pirathon Shiraz, consisting of parcels of grapes from 7 different Barossan sub-districts, each contributing their own unique character to the final blend. Made with open top fermenters and basket presses, the resulting wine is an ultimate example of a rich and concentrated Barossan Shiraz. Its dark, nearly impenetrable deep purple colour is a prelude to a nose oozing aromas reminiscent of raspberries, dark plums, chocolate, olives, tar, coconut and spices. Regarding the fact the wine has spend two years in new and seasoned hogsheads, it testifies how well the fruit has absorbed the oak, showing a perfect balance between the two on a palate that is remarkable elegant for its 15 percent ABV. Hedonistic and satisfying, this is a signature Barossan Shiraz. 91 points.

Source: winery sample  Price: $30  Drink: Now-2015+

Web: www.pirathon.com

A selection of Australian Chardonnays

June 10, 2008

No grape is more versatile than Chardonnay. Climatically diverse regions produce unique fruit that can be moulded into various styles. In relatively small areas as Chablis and the Côte d’Or it even comes down to single vineyards, where minute details as soil and exposition determine whether a wine can be labelled as a Cru or not. Despite the differences in quality or winemaking, a certain convergence can still be seen: Meursault tastes like Meursault, St-Aubin and Puligny-Montrachet like a Côte du Beaune.

When I had a line-up of six premium Chardonnays from WA a while ago, it seemed to me that – without doubting the quality of the fruit – the winemaker clearly ruled within the limits set by the raw materials and (more often) the market: styles generally get leaner, tighter and more defined. I did the same exercise again with Pierro’s Dr. Michael Peterkin, this time with some of Australia’s best. Not worrying too much about regionality this time, I looked at them as individual wines telling their own story.

The Bindi Quartz Chardonnay was one of my favourites and after the majestic 2005 I finally had a look at the 2006 edition. Bright, clear and yellow straw in the glass the nose displayed intense and rich characters of nectarine, white peach and citrus fruit, following through on a palate that showed more restraint with its usual tightly focused, mineral acidity.

From the tiny Wantirna Estate Vineyard in the Yarra Valley comes the 2006 Isabella Chardonnay. All work in this in 1963 planted vineyard in done manually while the overall oenological philosophy tends to be rather traditional. The resulting wines are therefore of very high quality, fully reflecting the potential of the fruit as is shown by this yellow straw Chardonnay. Initially very shy on the nose, the wine opens up nicely with some time in the glass, presenting intense melon, lemon and nectarine fruit following through on a palate that is elegantly marked by barrel fermentation and lees stirring.

Every great wine starts in the vineyard, so does the 2005 Pierro Chardonnay from our host. Thoughtful site selection, high-density planting, balanced canopy management, hand-picking and even irrigation are part of Dr. Peterkin’s repertoire. The expression of the winemaker himself is what this wine really stands out for though, a textbook example of how the variety can be manipulated to express itself to a maximum without losing its sense of place. Nuts, lees, stone fruit, melon, grapefruit and vanilla are just a few of the aromas that greet you on the nose while frequent bâttonage, 100% malolactic fermentation and barrel ageing have left their mark on the palate. Hedonistic buttery roundness with underlying taut acidity show the balancing act between fruit and winemaking is perfectly executed.

The yellow gold coloured 2005 Giaconda Chardonnay elaborates on the same theme although this effort from Kinzbrunner is as precise a wine can get. Incredibly intense on the nose aromas of melon, apple, pear, citrus, stone fruit and spice follow through on a powerful palate showing astonishing intensity, depth and length. In one word phenomenal.

Leeuwin Estate must be one of Margaret River’s major tourist attractions judged by the sheer number of people visiting the excellent cellar door, restaurant, art gallery and annual concert. Brilliant marketing from the region’s biggest winery that produces an overall solid range of wines. But Leeuwin Estate has got a super-sub called Block 20, one distinct parcel forming the backbone of the ‘Art Series’ Chardonnay. The pedigree of the fruit always shines through in a wine that is marked by one year lees contact and entirely new oak. It’s therefore no surprise that this wine needs time to flesh out in the bottle before it unveils its full potential. The 2005 Leeuwin Estate “Art Series” Chardonnay proves no exception to this rule as I’ve tasted this wine three times since its release, gradually showing more coherence and complexity. The light golden wine delivers the most intense aromas pears, apples, peaches, figs, nuts and spicy oak with an equal monumental concentration of flavours on a powerful and long palate. Again, your patience will be repaid.

From the King of Terroir himself comes the 2003 Petaluma Tiers Chardonnay, a wine that stood out by its golden colour,  unfortunately betraying its forward characters of ripe fruit and toasty, honeyed characters that became more obvious over some time in the glass. Despite triggering an interesting discussion on the amount of free sulphur dioxide after bottling the wine left me disappointed. Regarding the tightness of Croser’s 2005 Tapanappa Tiers Chardonnay it’s unlikely this would be the style intended.   

Pewsey Vale The Contours Riesling 2002

April 25, 2008

To say that I turned to The Contours after I run out of Grossets would unjustly declassify this Riesling which I regard as one of the country’s best. What I like about Eden Valley Rieslings in general is that they are more approachable when young than their Clare Valley cousins. That doesn’t neccesarily mean that top wines from outstanding vintages don’t age well, as shown by The Contours. The best part is that you can’t be tempted to drink this wine too young as the 2002 is only released about half a year ago. The depth and concentration of aromas and flavours in this yellow golden wine is superb, showing crisp lime and citrus complemented by hints of flowers, spice and toast following through on a palate with subtle, delicate fruit flavours balanced by powerful mineral acidity. This wine will last at least another 10 years and at about $30 dollars I wouldn’t hesitate to put a case in your cellar. 94 points

Source: Samuel Smith & Son  Price: $30  Drink: Now-2015+

Grosset Watervale Riesling 2002

April 25, 2008

I love Rieslings, generally the older the better. Top vintages from good producers like Grosset are always a treat. The one’s from 2002 still show so much slatey acidity that I’m sure they have another decade ahead. They taste so good after 3 to 4 years though that I’m afraid this was my last bottle. Bright gold in the glass the wine offers everything you want from an aged Riesling. Intense aromas of lime, citrus and apple still dominate the nose with sublte spice, floral, toasty and honeyed tones adding complexity and depth. The palate is succulent and mellow yet wonderfully balanced by vibrant acid that runs through the wine as a fresh mountain stream. So good that I couldn’t wait. 94 points.

Source: Fine Wine Wholesalers  Price: $37  Drink: Now-2015